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Plot Mhako — A man of many jackets

Germany-based Zimbabwean creative Plot Mhako wears many jackets in the arts industry and these include being a social entrepreneur, dance promoter and arts journalist.

Germany-based Zimbabwean creative Plot Mhako wears many jackets in the arts industry and these include being a social entrepreneur, dance promoter and arts journalist. Mhako (PM) told Standard Style reporter Nyasha Gorogodo (NG) that he is helping to develop and structure the African music industry and the role of African music to drive tourism and job opportunities.

Below are excerpts from the interview.

NG: Can you provide an overview of the current state of the African music industry? What are some of the key challenges and opportunities you see in developing and structuring this industry?

PM: I think that the African music industry is getting more and more vibrant, diverse, colourful and youthful. Amapiano and Afrobeats are the leading sounds and genres that reflect the continent's pop and youth culture.

Over the past decade, we've seen a surge in global interest, with African artists gaining international recognition and collaborations becoming more common.

Some of the challenges include political turmoil, poor infrastructure, limited access to funding, and inadequate intellectual property protections.

 However, opportunities abound in leveraging digital platforms for distribution, fostering cross-border collaborations, and building stronger industry networks to support talent development and market expansion.

Thus, at Arts Connect Africa (ACA) we are committed to bring together music industry professionals and cultural enthusiasts from across the globe in a celebration of Africa’s rich musical heritage and harnessing the collective power of our community to overcome the challenges faced by the cultural arts industry, thereby creating a thriving ecosystem for African arts and culture. ACA is at the forefront of creating a unified and vibrant African music industry.

NG: Can you describe your role as a Zimbabwean entrepreneur in this space? What specific initiatives or programmes have you been involved in to help develop and strengthen the African music industry?

PM: As a Zimbabwean entrepreneur, my focus has been on creating platforms and opportunities for African artists to showcase their talent.

 I founded Jibilika Dance Trust, which uses dance and various elements of youth culture to engage and empower youth. Jibilika Dance Trust organises various hip hop and youth culture related events, workshops, and competitions throughout Zimbabwe, including the annual Jibilika Dance Festival, which attracts dancers from all over the country. Jibilika has over the years curated various successful initiatives including the Mafuwe International Festival of Dance, Zimdancehall Music Summit, Zim hip Hop Summit, Amplifaya Festival. Jibilika Also runs the Skate Zimbabwe project.

Additionally, I've been involved in documenting and promoting creatives and projects through earGROUND MEDIA.

I am also producing and promoting music festivals that bring together artists from across the continent, fostering a sense of unity and collaboration within the industry. I am presently organising the Moto Moto Festival in Germany. I also co-curate AMPLIFAYA creative business conference for Africa and the music showcase focusing on amplifying and empowering emerging voices.


NG:: How do you see African music festivals playing a role in driving tourism and job opportunities on the continent? Can you share some examples of successful music festivals and their economic/social impact?

PM: African music festivals are crucial in driving tourism and creating job opportunities. They attract international visitors, showcasing the continent's rich cultural heritage and generating significant economic activity. For instance, the Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA) in Zimbabwe not only brings in tourists but also creates temporary jobs and stimulates local businesses. Similarly, Lake of Stars in Malawi has had a profound impact on the local economy by promoting cultural tourism and providing a platform for artists to reach wider audiences. These festivals also foster social cohesion and cultural exchange, enhancing the continent's global image. Thus, as a member of the ACA, we envision a world where African music and culture are integral to the global arts landscape, celebrated and appreciated by all and contribute to the industry and countries’ socio-economic prosperity.


NG: What are some of the key challenges or barriers you have faced in trying to grow the African music industry and promote music festivals? How have you worked to overcome these obstacles?

PM: One of the main challenges is the lack of adequate venues and reliable technology. We struggle to find spaces in Zimbabwe to conduct creative projects and host events. Funding is a significant barrier for many of us in the arts industry. To overcome these obstacles, we've focused on building collaborative partnerships with international organizations and utilizing digital platforms to reach wider audiences and monetising the social media reach. earGROUND MEDIA has become our sustainability vehicle.


NG: What emerging trends or innovations are you seeing in the African music industry? How are artists, entrepreneurs, and festival organizers adapting to changes in technology, consumer preferences, and the global music landscape?

PM: One of the most notable trends is the increasing use of digital platforms for music distribution and promotion. Streaming services are making African music more accessible globally, and social media is a powerful tool for artists to connect with fans. There is also a growing interest in genre fusions, with artists blending traditional sounds with contemporary styles. Festival organizers are incorporating technology to enhance the attendee experience, such as virtual reality and live streaming, to reach a global audience. Adaptation to these changes is crucial, and many are investing in digital skills and innovative marketing strategies.


NG: What strategies or approaches are you taking to promote African music and artists on the global stage? How can African music festivals help raise the international profile of the continent's diverse musical talent?

PM: Promoting African music globally involves a multi-faceted approach. Through different projects such as Moto Moto Festival Iam creating a platform for artists to be able to tour and perform in Europe.

Through earGROUND AFRICA we are working on building robust digital presences for artists, facilitating international collaborations, and participating in global music conferences and showcases through the AMPLIFAYA project.

Amplifaya is a convergence for Africa’s creative industries and a celebration of cultural diversity with an aim to stimulate and promote a viable, sustainable and thriving ecosystem for the continent with a global reach and appeal. It is a bi-annual event that brings together Africa's leading and international creative industry leaders under one roof. Africa, a continent brimming with potential and diverse creativity, faces challenges when it comes to nurturing its creative industries and reaping the economic, social, and political benefits they offer. This is where Amplifaya steps in, aiming to address these needs and unlock the immense potential of Africa's creative sector.


NG: What advice would you give to other aspiring African entrepreneurs who want to get involved in developing the music industry and leveraging music festivals for economic and social impact?

PM:My advice would be to start with a clear vision and be persistent. Building a network of contacts within the industry is essential, as is staying informed about global trends and innovations. Embrace digital tools and platforms to maximise reach and impact. Collaborate with other stakeholders, including government bodies, private sector players, and international organisations, to pool resources and expertise. Finally, always prioritise the quality and authenticity of the cultural experiences you offer.


NG: Looking ahead, what is your vision for the future of the African music industry? Where do you see the greatest opportunities for growth and transformation in the coming years?

 PM: I envision a thriving African music industry that is well-integrated into the global market, with artists who are not only celebrated locally but also internationally. The greatest opportunities lie in digital transformation, with the potential to reach global audiences and monetize content more effectively. Investing in infrastructure, education, and policy support will be crucial for sustainable growth. I also see immense potential in developing regional hubs for music production and talent development, which can serve as incubators for the next generation of African musical talent.

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